November 05, 2015
A 55-year-old Philadelphia woman received a life sentence plus 80 years in prison Thursday for her involvement in a brutal criminal enterprise that held disabled adults captive in locked closets, basements and attics — all while stealing their government benefits.
Linda Weston pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to her role in the enterprise, which victimized six adults and four children over a 10-year stretch. The conspirators, two of whom are awaiting trial, allegedly targeted individuals with mental disabilities who were estranged from their families.
Weston and her co-conspirators allegedly lured their victims to residences they rented in Philadelphia; Killeen, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; and West Palm Beach, Florida. Weston then became their representative payee with Social Security and began receiving their disability and, in some cases, state benefits.
The conspirators allegedly locked their victims in basements, closets, attics and apartments. The victims often were left isolated in the dark and sedated with drugs placed in their food and drink. Some victims endured the abuse for years.
If the victims attempted to escape, steal food or protest their treatment, the conspirators allegedly punched, kicked, stabbed, burned and slapped them, prosecutors said. Victims also allegedly were hit with belts, sticks, bats, hammers and other objects, including the butt of a pistol.
Two victims died during captivity.
Donna Spadea was found dead in the basement of a home on the 2200 block of Glenview Avenue in the Castor section of Northeast Philadelphia on June 26, 2005, after being fed a substandard diet and not allowed to use the bathroom. Spadea allegedly had been brought by Weston and a co-defendant to the home in April 2005. Weston ordered other members of the household to move Spadea's body to a different location before alerting law enforcement.
A second victim, Maxine Lee, died of bacterial meningitis and starvation in November 2008 after allegedly being confined inside a kitchen cabinet and an attic for several months in Virginia. Lee previously had been beaten when she tried to escape or begged for food. She never received medical attention for her injuries.
Weston ordered the other household members to move Lee's body to a bedroom and stage the death before calling law enforcement. The family left for Philadelphia the next day.
Philadelphia police rescued the remaining victims from the sub-basement of an apartment building in Tacony on Oct. 15, 2011.
Weston pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft of government funds, wire fraud, mail fraud, use of a firearm in furtherance of violent crime and false statements.
Weston's daughter, Jean McIntosh, and co-defendant Eddie Wright also pleaded guilty. Co-defendants Gregory Thomas Sr. and Nicklaus Woodard are awaiting trial.
Weston also was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia M. Rufe to pay the Social Security Administration $273,463 in restitution and a $19,600 special assessment.